The situation on the contact line remains very tense, especially in the north of Donetsk and Gorlovka and in the area of the Yasinovatsky checkpoint situated in between. At the beginning of the week, the intensity of bombardment decreased slightly. But by the middle of the week, it at least doubled.
This increase in the shelling of the Republics by the Ukrainian side may be related to the beginning of the next round of the Minsk-2 Contact Group negotiations in Minsk on April 6. Donbass residents noticed long ago that on the eve of meetings in both the Minsk and ‘Normandy Four’ [Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine) formats, the intensity of bombardments on the Ukrainian side increased accordingly.
The shelling by the Ukrainian military involved mostly mortars as well as rounds fired from infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers and small arms. The Ukrainian military press service also reported daily mortar bombardments of their positions by the DPR side, but this was of a lesser intensity than that visited on the territory of the Republics.
The significant difference in the level of bombardment carried out by the Ukrainian and DPR sides can be explained by reference to the experience of residents living in areas controlled by Kiev near the front. They relate that the DPR army returns fire only when the intensity of bombing increases, after having first allowed several salvos to go unanswered. Their return fire, residents explain, is usually conducted twice: the first to observe the fall of shot, and the second to suppress the firing point. After which, the bombardment coming from the Ukrainian side stops.
Yesterday evening, the Ukrainian military subjected the northern suburbs of Donetsk and Gorlovka to particularly intense shelling. The explosions could be clearly heard in all the districts of the DPR capital and, judging by the sound, the Ukrainian side used heavier weapons than mortars. Some Donetsk residents speculate that it may have been Kiev’s reaction to the results of the referendum in the Netherlands. [See ‘Dutch voters reject EU-Ukraine ‘association agreement‘, on New Cold War.org, April 8, 2016.]
As a result of the bombardment, two private houses burned down in a northern suburb of Donetsk. In Gorlovka over the past few days, six houses were damaged and a 24-year-old civilian was wounded.
Lately the Ukrainian military have practically stopped paying attention to the presence of international observers in areas shelled. Two days ago, OSCE observers came under fire from the Ukrainian side, counting over half an hour 260 explosions near the positions of the DPR army. Yesterday, the Russian representatives to the JCCC (Joint Centre of Coordination and Control) were shelled while travelling along the Donetsk-Gorlovka road. This road came within range of Ukrainian artillery following their entry into the buffer zone. According to the observers, at least six shells were fired at their vehicle.
The OSCE monitoring mission, however, did not include these facts in their reports. Nor did they report the massive bombardments of Makeevka, a satellite town of Donetsk, as well as the northern suburbs of Gorlovka, which took place several days ago. Despite the fact that the OSCE observers personally visited the affected localities and documented the results of the bombardments, their reports neither mentioned the destruction nor the 13 wounded civilians.
Residents of Kiev-controlled territories continue to inform of columns of Ukrainian equipment moving towards the contact line, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled as well as towed artillery systems. These columns have lately seen a significant increase in the number of Kamaz and Ural trucks, suggesting the transportation of ammunition.
In addition, Kiev has started the rotation of personnel on the contact line, replacing the Ukrainian military with mercenaries and radicals from volunteer battalions, according to intelligence reports from the Republics. Near Donetsk, about 160 nationalists from the Right Sector, as well as 21 Polish female snipers, were reported to have arrived. Intelligence reports of the Lugansk Republic also mention the arrival of nationalists to the contact line within their zone of responsibility.
According to DPR intelligence sources, the Defense Minister of Ukraine, Stepan Poltorak, is planning to visit the Ukrainian army units near the front. One of the aims of his inspection, it is reported, is his personal control over the service conditions of mercenaries from Turkey. Last month, one of the nationalist battalions officially announced that two U.S. citizens and 12 Georgians were admitted to its ranks. This week the Ukrainian military posted in social networks a photo of a UK citizen apparently fighting with them against Donbass.
Nevertheless, yesterday the Ukrainian General Staff officially stated that the American military does not fight on Kiev’s side in Donbass. The statement neither mentioned citizens of other countries nor instructors from the USA, the UK, Canada and Georgia, who are openly present not only in training camps but in the area of operations as well.
Based on the current structure of the Security Council of Ukraine (SBU), including at all the levels a department consisting of CIA personnel, it is not altogether implausible that Kiev is actively allotting foreign instructors and advisers to the command, staff and intelligence structures of the Ukrainian army. After all, having handed over its economic, law enforcement and security management responsibility to foreigners, the Ukrainian authorities may as well transfer the army under the direct external control as well.
The LPR Defense Ministry also claims that the Ukrainian special services, together with NATO specialists, are training subversive groups for infiltration into the territory of the Republic. Over the past three months, 21 Ukrainian agents were exposed in the LPR, where 10 hidden caches containing hundreds of weapons were also discovered.
According to the UN’s latest data, about 1.5 million residents of Donbass are starving, including 300,000 who are virtually surviving in extremely hard conditions and require urgent food aid. Providing this aid is only possible in the case of de-escalation of the conflict and cessation of hostilities in the region. Kiev regularly declares its commitment to the peaceful settlement of the conflict and as well as simultaneously expressing its continued intention to return Donbass at any cost. Which of these declarations is true is suggested by intelligence reports that over the last few days, the Ukrainian army staff has moved from the rear to the contact line.
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